Local

Some GOP legislators open to legal pot but not as a revenue-driven effort

GOP legislators open to legal marijuana but not as a revenue-driven enterprise

Lead grower Dave Wilson cares for marijuana plants Sept. 15, 2015, at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion.
Lead grower Dave Wilson cares for marijuana plants Sept. 15, 2015, at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion.

During his inauguration speech Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker had a simple message on one of the most polarizing issues this legislative session.

“In the interests of keeping the public safe from harm, expanding true justice in our criminal justice system and advancing economic inclusion, I will work with the legislature to legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational cannabis in Illinois,” Pritzker said.

The Democrat touted the legalization of marijuana throughout his campaign as a means to reduce mass incarceration and reinvest in Illinois communities blighted by the war on drugs.

But if local GOP lawmakers are to get on board, they will want the discussions and debates to be with the understanding that the issue should not solely be motivated by revenue.

State Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, said if lawmakers want to have a conversation about the use of marijuana as an issue of liberty, he would be open to it.

“If we’re willing to have that discussion, which comes along with accountability and community expectations and all the law enforcement structure, then I’m willing to have that discussion,” Wilcox said. “If Illinois is going to discuss legalizing marijuana purely because of a revenue stream, then you can bet Springfield is probably going to get it wrong, and we won’t do this in a successful way.”

He added that there will be problems that come with marijuana legalization that the new revenue needs to be allocated toward, such as law enforcement training, development of technology to assist officers and revisions or changes to the criminal code.

“If we don’t set aside funds of the revenue to handle that, then we’re going to end up with those issues after the fact and not have a revenue stream,” Wilcox said.

State Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, said during an appearance Thursday in Marengo that Pritzker highlighted a number of progressive changes, such as legalizing marijuana and his progressive tax plan. But none of them will be enough to settle the state’s financial problem, Reick said.

“Our debt problem is too deep to solve with any of those things or a combination thereof,” Reick said. “We need really honest to goodness new ideas as to how we’re going to get out of the debt that we’re talking about.”

Although both Wilcox and Reick are open to the possibility of marijuana, not all GOP representatives are on board.

State Rep. Tom Weber, R-Lake Villa, has said he is opposed to legalization, but if it were to pass, he would like to know if employers would have any rights on marijuana use within their companies.

One of the biggest local opponents of legalization is McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally, who wrote a letter to seven area lawmakers asking them not to support recreational marijuana legalization.

Kenneally wrote in his letter that contrary to proponents’ claims that marijuana legalization would reduce opioid and alcohol abuse and curtail mass incarceration, evidence indicates greater likelihoods of opioid misuse among marijuana users and upticks in crime.

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access nwherald.com and all Shaw Media Illinois content from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.